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Wednesday, April 07, 2010


I had finished my meal and had exactly one piece of Tandoori roti left, untouched. I really wanted to offer this to the couple sitting next to me, but I needed to remember, this was not my home nor Kokadjo.

On a summer vacation some years ago, my folks decided to book a room on Moosehead Lake, Maine's largest and a well known attraction for centuries. Their quest led them to a lodge on the lake. I had decided to accompany them, however, the lodge's room rate at the time was quite pricey and did not seem to be a great value. Some research was quite fortuitous. A beautiful hillside estate home in Greenville, Maine, with a verandah and lake views, was just nearby and, as I learned at check-in, had only just been converted to an inn. I was the first and only guest at Blair Hill Inn and was given the royal treatment.

The innkeepers were a young couple from Chicago and quite enthusiastic. Asking about restaurant options, they recommended Kokadjo. Although not fancy, they assured me it was a lot of fun. Perfect. It was just what we wanted.

On picking up my folks at the lodge, however, I encountered their innkeeper. When I told him where we were going and asked his opinion, he retorted, "It's fine if you don't mind cigarette ashes in your food."
As soon as we entered Kokadjo, we knew our innkeepers were right, and cigarette ashes in our food became a distant memory. Home videos of moose were playing on the TV and the place was just alive. We would become regulars here.

My sister had ordered a lobster, and we noticed a man some distance away, appearing quite agitated. He finally blurted out that he was a lobsterman, that my sister's poor skills were driving him crazy, and did she mind if he came and helped her do this right? Which he did. Another man eating pizza alone made a general announcement that he had a few slices left, told what type of pizza he had, and did anyone want them. There were takers.

Food waste is a terrible thing, and although many will take restaurant leftovers home, there are a myriad of reasons why many do not, even those who are not inclined to be wasteful. Perhaps the amount left is too small, is not suitable for reheating, or after dinner plans would just make it too inconvenient to drag around a doggie bag. Some are just too embarrassed to ask.

Many New Yorkers eat all or most of their meals out. There is an enormous number and range of restaurants in New York City at every price level. For those who want to eat inexpensively, there are many excellent choices, often no more costly than a typical fast food establishment.

Eating in restaurants, however, is just not an efficient activity - untouched bread, unfinished drinks or condiments are discarded. Entire meals are returned uneaten because the customer did not like it. Portions are often too large. Waste is endemic - waiters will sometimes take food away without asking if the customer wants to take it home.

It is estimated that 40% of food served in New York City restaurants is thrown away. That's a lot of food. Of course, offering food to strangers or accepting and eating other's victuals obviously has a lot of problems. But when I see uneaten food on my plate or yours, I just can't help thinking of a less wasteful world and Kokadjo :)

Note: Statistics range widely, but it is estimated that 15% of food in the US is thrown away untouched or unopened. A Department of Agriculture study in 1997 found that more than 96 out of 356 billion pounds of edible food was lost to waste by retailers, restaurants, and consumers yearly. Surprisingly, the large amount that ends up in landfills is now largest contributor to methane gases released into the environment. An interesting blog about food waste ( is run by Jonathan Bloom, a journalist from Durham.


Jarart said...

We could feed entire countries with the food we waste. How sad.

Lily Hydrangea said...

I'm glad you checked out Kokadjo despite the warning. Too bad every eating establishment can't be the same!

Ed said...

Hi Brian,
I just wanted to let you know that probably tomorrow we wanted to feature your site on the blog. Is it OK to use a screengrab of your front page in the blog article?

Many thanks,

(please reply to ed[at]

Levinson Axelrod said...

Thanks for informing us about the Wasted Food link.

Terry B, Blue Kitchen said...

Brian, there's actually an organization in New York [the name escapes me at the moment] that picks up leftover food [not customer leftovers, but excess food] from city restaurants and uses it to help fight hunger. Yes, we do waste too much, but it's good to see that some efforts are being made to reduce the waste.

Mirela said...

That's the funkiest place I've ever heard of :-). Somehow, 15% doesn't seem too high for me. Probably because I wonder what the percentage would be in Croatia - my guess is near 30-40%. Although our portions in restaurants are smaller than in the US, we throw our food much more - the concept of boxes and taking leftovers home has only recently been introduced and accepted in some Chinese restaurants. However, in majority of other restaurants boxes for leftovers are unheard of. Also, the concept of taking your leftovers home is almost considered socially unacceptable. After 2 years in the US, to me, this "socially unacceptable" attitude in Croatia looks weird, pretentious and just plain stupid. There are too many hungry people next to all of us to throw away food like that.

Beth in NYC said...

Terry B, isn't that City Harvest you referred-to? I don't know much about it but I understand it is a very good organization.

Brian Dubé said...

Terry B, Beth - Yes, it is called City Harvest and I wrote about it in 2009:

However, they only redistribute food which has not been opened, used or touched. Excess canned or packaged goods, for example. So the impact they can have on the food waste problem will always be very limited.

Eric Calabros said...

Iranians call this bread Sangak. (Sang=stone)